Piano Fade

 

The piano player

has already been shot.

He is no longer a musician,

less one that sold-out halls.

 

Once he turned the river’s chant

into a jazz so fine that fish weeped.

 

Now, he plays only

right-handed counterpoint.

His left is still paralyzed,

even after a year of PT.

 

He only knows Bach,

the old bebop has faded.

 

His laugh,

a faint rhythmic sigh

is the only time

he knows how to keep.

 

He grows frustrated

when a two-handed Schubert

plays on the classic radio station.

 

He was acclaimed

for the way his music

triumphed over time and adversity:

the weakness of an inferior piano,

his own chronic fatigue, his very pain.

 

He would admonish those

who broke his concentration

with chronic picture taking

and excessive coughing.

 

He grunted whenever

he heard his imitators

in the elegies of Muzak

floating from the big mall speakers.

 

Now, his drummer and bassist

have died. He is alone.

His past brilliance is a cosmic taunt.

 

He realizes that he never

could have done any of this

without them

by his side,

keeping his time

 

The small, sleeping audience

of the nursing home

of which he is a resident

is not convinced of his genius.

He is no longer convinced of it.

 

He plays jazz in his dreams.

It’s as messed up as his left hand,

messed up as his waking life.